THE BLOG

Iran: Electronic Warfare Versus the Islamic Republic

Iran's political crisis continues to blaze. It's still impossible to say which leaders or factions will emerge victorious. However, one thing seems certain: the earthquake in the Islamic Republic that is shaking the Mideast and deeply confusing everyone, including the US government, is hardly the black and white morality drama between democracy and repression breathlessly portrayed by Western media.

A prime indicator of the complexity of the Iranian crisis was provided by the head of Israel's intelligence agency, Meir Dagan. The Mossad director reportedly expressed his hope that Iran's embattled president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would remain in office.

On the surface, that sounds absurd, since Ahmadinejad is Israel's Great Satan, the man that supporters of Israel claim intends to inflict a second Holocaust on the Jewish people.

According to Dagan, if Ahmadinejad's supposedly "moderate" rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, came to power, it would be harder for Israel to keep up its intense propaganda war against Iran over its nuclear program even when prime minister, Mousavi championed Iran's nuclear development.

That recalls Yasser Arafat's quip that the only reason Israel had not assassinated him was that he looked so ugly, and thus served as a wonderfully negative stereotype of Palestinians.

Besides, added the veteran Mossad chief, the devil you know is better. What new devils might emerge from the wreckage of the Islamic Republic if it falls?

Meanwhile, we have been watching an intensifying western propaganda campaign against Iran, mounted by the US and British governments. We almost exclusively hear highly colored commentary and analysis that comes from bitterly anti-regime Iranian exiles, `experts' with an ax to grind, and US neocons yearning for war with Iran. Wishful thinking and cheerleading has largely supplanted news reporting in the American and British media.

In viewing the Muslim world, Westerners keep listening to those who make a profession of telling them what they want to hear, rather than the facts. We are at it again in Iran.

President Barack Obama's properly stated he would refrain from being seen to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs in spite of calls by hard-line Republicans for American action - whatever that might be.

Obama also did the right thing by apologizing for the US/British coup that overthrew Iran's democratic Mossadegh government in 1953, for which Iranians are still furious. They also bitterly resent the West for Britain's invasion of Persia in 1941, and Anglo-American encouragement and support of Saddam Hussein's aggression against Iran in 1980 that caused one million Iranian casualties.

But Obama's pledge of non-interference is not the whole story. Washington has been attempting to overthrow Iran's Islamic government since the 1979 revolution and has lately accelerated such efforts.

The US has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years, blocking desperately needed foreign investment, preventing technology transfers, and disrupting Iranian trade. In recent years, the US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran, and $60-75 million funding opposition parties, violent underground Marxists like the Mujahidin-i-Khalq, and restive ethnic groups like Azeris, Kurds, and Arabs under the so-called `Iran Democracy Program.'

The arm of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains withered from a bomb planted by the US-backed Mujahidin-i-Khalq, who were once on the US terrorist list.

Pakistani intelligence sources put CIA's current spending on "black operations" to subvert Iran's government at $400 million.

According to an ABC News investigation, President George Bush signed a "finding" that authorized an accelerated campaign of subversion against the Islamic Republic. Washington's goal was "regime change" in Tehran and installation of a pro-US regime of former Iranian royalist exiles.

While the majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, Western intelligence agencies and media are playing a key role in sustaining the uprising and providing communications, including the newest electronic method, via Twitter. These are covert techniques developed by US intelligence during recent "flower" revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia that brought pro-US governments to power.

The Tehran government made things worse by limiting foreign news reports and arresting prominent politicians. Its leadership is increasingly - and dangerously - split over how to handle the protests. For the first time, some senior regime supporters are backing charges of vote-rigging.

We also hear a flood of hypocrisy from Western capitals. Washington, London and Paris piously accused Iran of improper electoral procedures while utterly ignoring the total lack of democracy in their authoritarian Mideast allies such as Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, that never hold elections and throw political opponents into prison and torture them. Compared to them, Iran, for all its faults, is almost model of democratic governance.

The US, France and Saudi Arabia just cooperated to rig Lebanon's recent elections, dishing out millions in bribe money to ensure victory of the pro-US faction. The US and Britain staunchly backed and financed Pakistan's recent military dictatorship. Those Pakistanis opposing it were often branded, "terrorists."

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy had the chutzpah to rebuke Iran for improper election procedures after returning from the funeral of Gabon's dictator, Omar Bongo, a key French ally who had ruled for 41 years and supplied France with cheap oil.

When Hamas won a fair and square democratic election in Gaza, the US and Israel swiftly moved to mount a coup against the new Palestinian government.

US senators, led by John McCain, blasted Iran for not respecting human rights. That's pretty rich after Republicans and many Democrats just voted to bar the public release of ghastly torture photos from US prisons in Iraq, and want other secret CIA prisons kept open.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the dimmest bulbs in the weak-wattage Republican ranks, called for US intervention in Iran. Graham was one of the arch supporters of the Iraq fiasco and remains a proud defender of torture. Let's air assault the warlike senator into downtown Tehran.

There are many questions about Iran's vote, of which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by 60%. Voter turnout was an amazing 84%, putting to shame the US and Europe, where less than half of voters exercise their right. Pre-election polls that showed Ahmadinejad headed for a big win were right. All those foreigners praying for his defeat and the collapse of the Islamic government were deeply disappointed.

But it also appears there were significant -though as far as we so far know - not decisive irregularities. Iran's government has admitted that some ballot boxes were stuffed, and the speaker of the Majils (parliament), the capable Ali Larijani, rebuked certain unnamed clerics for trying to rig results. This was extremely stupid, as Ahmadinejad was way ahead in pre-election polls anyway, and very popular.

Washington is in a quandary. President Obama sincerely wants to enter into talks with Iran over its nuclear program and try to convince Tehran to give up enrichment. But hardliners in his cabinet and Congress are urging Obama to seize the opportunity to further destabilize Iran.

Bad idea. A stable Iran is essential to a stable Mideast. Mossad chief Dagan knows what he's talking about. US and British efforts to subvert Iran's government could yet blow up in our faces. And do we really need another monster crisis after "liberating" Afghanistan, and Iraq, or after the messes in Pakistan and Palestine?

Meanwhile, other Mideast nations allied to the US will look at Iran and conclude that giving any democratic rights can be downright dangerous and must be avoided at all costs.

After all, it may also be possible to use cell phone and the Internet to rouse crowds of protesters in Cairo, Amman, Casablanca and Riyadh, all pillars of the US Mideast Raj. Or even in Tunisia, whose military leader won his last "election" with 94.5% of the vote, to Washington's hearty approval.